Whether devoutly Christian or outspokenly atheist I think we can all agree Christmas is a needed celebration in the coldest, darkest part of the year. Gathering with friends and family is the cornerstone of what makes Christmas great. You could also say eating too much, needlessly buying things, and doing nothing for a couple days are other major appeals. Though, another essential part that comes to mind is the music.
There’s something about the immediate warmth felt upon hearing music from Christmases-gone-by that lulls you into a blissful headspace. We’ll all have our favourites, most likely passed down to us from our parents’ holiday listening habits. If you’re unlucky like me, you’re from a family of Scrooges who hate all Christmas music. I’m in entire disagreement with my family, though I do believe those who play Christmas music before December 1st should be hung, drawn, and quartered.
It’s always struck me as bizarre that we hear the identical playlist of songs on the radio every Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why the classics are still going strong, but a coin has two sides. To go even one Christmas without George Michael slaying it on “Last Christmas” would be shameful, but hearing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” for the 854th time in one month makes me want to commit seppuku.
The world of Christmas music doesn’t seem to fit conventional industry rules. Not one (successful) artist has a career consisting solely of Christmas music, any artist from any genre can throw their hat in the ring, and if the music made is terrible it automatically takes on a “so bad it’s good” quality. Christmas music is an anomaly. Grab some eggnog, fill up on minced pies, you’re going to need them. Let’s explore the good, the bad, and the bizarre of Christmas music.
James Brown’s Funky Christmas
by James Brown
It is a tragedy that this album is not at the forefront of every family’s Christmas listening criteria. The King of Funk is always perfect for social gatherings and, in this album, he brings us seventeen original songs for the holidays. Soft and soulful, with just a little bit of his signature spice, it’s as comforting as a crackling fireplace in a snowstorm. If you only listen to one of the albums in this article, let it be this one.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
by Vince Guaraldi Trio
Thinking your Christmases need a little classing up? Has the first term of uni been filled with too many trashy nights and cheap dinners? Well then, the Vince Guaraldi Trio will bring sophistication back into your life. From swing time to waltz, this jazz trio covers a range of Christmas classics with homely style. You won’t be met with dissonant trumpet solos or jarring drum fills, just the soothing sound of virtuosos serenading your celebrations. They also put in their performance of the “Linus and Lucy” theme, which is adorable even if you’ve never seen “The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show”.
by Ru Paul
Ru Paul is the only one who can challenge Mariah Carey’s sheer glee for Christmas (in my opinion). For those who cringe at cheesy music this is not for you. For those who belt along to songs while prepping Christmas dinner, this is your new best jam. Wall-to-wall queer excellence from the Queen herself.
Christmas In The Dogghouse
by Snoop Dogg
What I consider to be the best of the “so bad it’s good” albums. Christmas just came early for hip-hop lovers. Somehow, both no one and everyone needs to listen to the Dogg’s twist on Christmas.
Elvis’ Christmas Album
by Elvis Presley
Readers over the age of 40 will laugh at me for putting this album in a “lesser known” list. Elvis’ Christmas Album is exceptionally well known, though I suspect most at Imperial are not familiar with it. His rock-’n-roll charm is perfect for holidays with the family. Even if Elvis isn’t for you, you can’t deny that the rattling, crackling 50’s production doesn’t warm your heart the same as other legendary Christmas hits. My personal favourite from the album is “Blue Christmas”, hits me right in the feels.
A Christmas of Love
by Keith Swift
Sexy 00’s R&B is undoubtedly enjoyable, whether as a guilty pleasure or as a throwback. It’s good to know there is a limit to its charm though, I don’t think your family would feel in the mood if this was on while opening presents. Like a bodybuilder wearing a Santa hat, it doesn’t feel like Christmas, rather a cheap attempt at making Christmas sexy.
While looking around for “lesser known” Christmas albums for this article, this particular album cropped up on a bunch of “underrated” lists. I wholeheartedly disagree. You can’t complain about the quality of production, but the tone of the album is depressingly sombre. A time of cheer, that’s what Christmas is - no one wants to be sad over the holidays.
by Straight No Chaser
Carollers always crop up in classic holiday movies, but I’ve never seen actual carollers going door to door. If some do ever knock on my door, please don’t let it be the boys from Straight No Chaser. No one should invite these horrifically enthusiastic acapella singers into their home, they should be left at the door.
The Green Days of Christmas: The Holiday Tribute to Green Day
by Santa Claws and the Naughty but Nice Orchestra
The most puzzling part of this album is that I have no idea where it came from. Three albums were simultaneously released in 2007, each one a cover album of a certain rock band’s songs – Green Day, AC/DC, and Metallica. The covers are simply jolly, bell-ladened versions of those three bands' top hits. No live performances, no interviews, no Wikipedia page can be found for the creators, and the label on which they were released has no online presence. You may find some pleasure from this sheerly for novelty's sake.
We Wish You A Turtle Christmas
by Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Where to begin unwrapping this absolutely fascinating piece of art? One of two live action direct-to-video musical productions from 1994 based on the Turtles franchise. Fully-grown men in turtle costumes dance and perform around New York. The costumes aren’t bad except for the disturbing grins and that their flapping mouths never match the words said.
It’s my new favourite musical, and I don’t like musicals. It opens with a “Deck the Halls” parody where they sing in Caribbean accents which are never explained or returned to. Two seconds after the song is done, they all switch to a Brooklyn accent. At one point we get an opera solo from Michelangelo. Leonardo spits super-hot fire in a “Wrap Rap”. To cap it all off we have a touching moment where Splinter teaches us that the true meaning of Christmas is not rooted in capitalist consumption, but the love of your friends and family. Unfortunately, it’s hard to take him seriously when the actor is so clearly a young white guy straining his voice attempting to sound like a wise Asian martial arts master. You can find the whole thing on YouTube, it’s 20 minutes long, go watch.
by Crazy Frog
Yeah okay… who? Who asked for this? Fans of Crazy Frog were not assembling in the streets campaigning for a Crazy Frog song they could play while decorating the tree or stuffing the turkey. Despite having no reason for existing, it’s still worth checking out, particularly for the strange music video that centres around Crazy Frog freeing Santa from captivity like it’s a Fast and Furious movie.
There is so much more to unpack out there. Personally, I endured almost forty albums to bring you the ones I found here, but I could be listening non-stop until December 25th and still not get through it all. Hopefully you find some holiday joy from these albums. Whatever you listen to this Christmas, may it bring cheer and happiness.